Jack London Revisited

It’s been a while since I’ve read anything by Jack London.  I thought I was about due.  A character called The Malamute Kid is in both of the stories I read – the stories seem to be complementary of each other.  Known sometimes as simply “The Kid”, he seems a little different from some of London’s other heroes.  While he can be rugged and a loner at times, he isn’t always that way.  He has to deal with “The White Silence”  in the story of the same name.  He is travelling with a married couple when tragedy strikes.  I don’t think that I’m revealing too much in saying this as the Yukon is a common foe in London’s stories.  The Kid makes the tough choices as how to best proceed considering the circumstances.  The description of the White Silence is vintage London:

All movement ceases, the sky clears, the heavens are as brass; the slightest whisper seems sacrilege, and man becomes timid, affrighted at the sound of his own voice.  Sole speck of life journeying across the ghostly wastes of a dead world, he trembles at his audacity, realizes that his is a maggot’s life, nothing more.  Strange thoughts arise unsummoned, and the mystery of all things strives for utterances.  And the fear of death, of God, of the universe, comes over him, – the hope of the Resurrection and the Life, the yearning for immortality, the vain striving of the imprisoned essence, – it is then, if ever, man walks alone with God.

London takes a break from the theme of loneliness in nature when The Kid mixes up his favorite brew in a cabin of friends in “To The Man on Trail”.  The cabin is warmer and safer.  Relaxing can occur.  The ruggedness doesn’t go away, it just takes a rest.  The Yukon isn’t far away, though – just on the other side of the door – and still in the slightly inebriated minds of the men inside as they drink to those outside:

A health to the man on trail this night; may his grub hold out; may his dogs keep their legs; may his matches never miss fire.

Visitors from the outside show up and some tough choices have to be made again.  As the reader might expect, The Kid is up to the task.

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6 responses to “Jack London Revisited

  1. Hi Dale,

    Hard to miss with Jack London. The only thing I’ve read by him that’s didn’t wholly enjoy was the novella,”The Scarlet Plague.” I may revisit that some day as I’ve found that often the fault lies with me in reading something at “the wrong time” or in the wrong state of mind.

    I have two London stories in my DMI line-up this year but, alas, fate has yet to lead me one… I am the happy owner of his “Complete Works” though so I guess I can always do some ad hoc reading…

    -Jay

  2. Jay,
    I know what you mean about the wrong time. There are some books on my Classics Club list that I know I read in the wrong state of mind. So many people have named them their favorite that I have to reread them to see if I really missed something. I’ve enjoyed my ad hoc short stories the last few weeks. It balances out the exceptionally long novels I seem to be reading lately.

    -Dale

  3. I’m deeply in the trows of my Jack London addiction; read White Fang in the 6th grade; loved it…then happened across “To Build a Fire” Last year and I’m hooked. I’ve devoured his biography by Earle Labor, since then an anthology of his shorts and The Sea Wolf, which was much better than I had ever imagined. John Barleycorn is next…Jack was a man for the ages.

    • He is one of the authors I’ve read the most since I’ve been blogging. I love his short stories! I’m interested in reading Martin Eden. Perhaps I will get to that this year. Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy John Barleycorn!

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